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Table of Contents
The Late Bronze Age (c. 1700–1100 BCE) saw the height of the Mycenaean civilization, which peaked during the 15th and 13th centuries BCE. The Mycenaeans dominated the Peloponnese region of Greece and the Aegean Sea from Crete to the Cycladic islands. Their central city, Mycenae, is located in the Argolid region of the northeastern Peloponnese and bears their name. The Mycenaean civilization existed on the Greek mainland, primarily in the Peloponnese, Greece’s southern peninsula. The Mycenaeans are considered the first Greeks or the first speakers of the Greek language. From 1650 to 1200 BCE, the Mycenaean civilization was at its height.
Below are some interesting facts and information about the ancient Mycenaean civilization. Alternatively, download our comprehensive worksheet pack to utilize within the classroom or home environment.
Facts & Information
- The older Minoan culture (2000–1450 BCE), which had its genesis in Knossos, Crete, and extended to embrace the greater Aegean, influenced the Mycenaeans.
- Architecture, art, and religious rituals were integrated and modified to convey the possibly more martial and austere Mycenaean society.
- The Mycenaeans eventually came to rule the majority of mainland Greece and several islands.
- They established trading ties with other Bronze Age societies in Cyprus, the Levant, and Egypt. Later Greeks in the Archaic and Classical eras were profoundly influenced by this civilization, most visibly in their tales about Bronze Age heroes like Achilles and Odysseus and their achievements in the Trojan War.
Major Mycenaean Centers
- The Mycenaeans were native Greeks who probably gained inspiration from their interactions with Minoan Crete and other Mediterranean cultures to create a more complex sociopolitical society.
- Mycenae, the traditional home of Agamemnon, Tiryns, Pylos, Nestor’s home at Pylos, Thebes, Midea, Gla, Orchomenos, Argos, Sparta, Nichoria, and perhaps Athens were all significant Mycenaean cities.
- The Mycenaeans eventually conquered Crete, particularly at Knossos, and by the second half of the 15th century BCE, they had displaced the Minoans as the leading civilization in the southern Aegean.
- The largest city, but not capital in any sense, was Mycenae, perched atop a towering hill over 278 meters above sea level and had hundreds of tombs and shaft graves, including nine enormous stone tholos tombs from 1600-1300 BCE. The famed Lion Gate from 1250 BCE, with its heraldic pair of lions over the entrance and portions of the fortress walls, are two further noteworthy ruins.
- The precise nature of the political ties between the more than 100 Mycenaean centers scattered around Greece, aside from their commercial interactions, is unclear.
- It is even vague what the relationship was between a single palace and the local populace because the former appears to have specialized in producing luxury products and the latter in foodstuffs, some of which were then preserved in the palace.
- Political ties between different palaces or between a palace and its community are unknown. Despite this haziness, there were numerous shared cultural traits throughout places, making the phrase “Mycenaean culture” beneficial. Among these similar characteristics are Linear B Greek writing and architecture, frescoes, ceramics, jewelry, and weapons.
- Many of the Mycenaean centers had a sizable palace complex. While these complexes exhibit some site-specific developments, they also share numerous significant architectural characteristics.
- The Megaron, a vast rectangular center chamber, served as the framework for the complexes. The Mycenaean Megaron, which had an entrance porch, a vestibule, and the hall itself, served as a model for later Archaic and Classical temples in the Greek world.
- This area served as the palace’s central gathering place and had a sizable circular fireplace that was often more than 3 meters in diameter, four wooden columns, and a pierced ceiling or light well. It served as the wanax’s throne room as well.
- There are typically several private apartments; a second, smaller hall frequently referred to as the “Queen’s Megaron,” and extra spaces designated for management, storage, and production. The walls of the rooms were frescoed, and the flooring was coated with plaster.
- The palace’s rooms were built using rubble fill and cross-beamed walls and applied plaster inside and limestone blocks outside. Most of the columns and ceilings were painted wood, occasionally with bronze accents.
- They stand in stark contrast to the unprotected palaces of Minoan Crete and are best seen at Mycenae, Tiryns, and Thebes.
- Mycenaean sites frequently have colossal doors with enormous stone lintels with relieving triangles, arched passageways made by gradually overlapping stone blocks, circular stone graves with corbelled ceilings, and other architectural elements.
- Other Mycenaean architectural features include terracing of agricultural lands, dams for flood control, particularly evident at Tiryns, and small bridges made of massive, roughly-hewn stone blocks, again, probably the work of the Cyclopes.
- In contrast to these labor-intensive buildings, the non-elite of the Mycenaean civilization lived in humble mud-brick homes with stone foundations.
- The presence of foreign products like gold, ivory, copper, and glass in Mycenaean villages, as well as the finding of Mycenaean artifacts like pottery in far-off regions like Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Levant, Anatolia, Sicily, and Cyprus are proof that the Mycenaean civilization engaged in trade with other Aegean cultures.
- Perishable items like wine, olive oil, and perfumed oil were undoubtedly important Mycenaean exports. However, further information on interregional trade is now unavailable due to the scarcity of written records that have survived, which is restricted to about 70 Linear B clay tablets from a large site.
- The shipwreck of the Uluburun, which was discovered off the Turkish coast in the 14th century BCE, carried raw trade commodities such as copper and tin ingots, ivory, and glass disks. It is thought that when it fell, it was on its route to workshops in Mycenaean, Greece.
- The Minoan love of natural shapes and flowing design was also embraced by the Mycenaean craftspeople in art, as shown in fresco, pottery, and jewelry, although with a propensity to more schematic and less lifelike representation. This new aesthetic will eventually become prevalent throughout the Mediterranean. Popular ornamental themes included spirals and rosettes as well as geometric patterns. The goblet and the alabastron, or squat jar, are significant contributions to the Minoan pottery shapes, and giant jars are preferred. Popular items included standing female figures, terracotta figurines of animals, little ivory sculptures, carved stone dishes, and elaborate gold jewelry. Boar hunts, a particularly well-liked Mycenaean activity, were also shown in the frescoes, along with flora, griffins, lions, bull-leaping, battle scenes, warriors, chariots, and figure-of-eight shields.
- Little is known about Mycenaean religious traditions other than the priority placed on animal sacrifice, community feasting, the pouring of libations, and food offerings.
- The prominence of double ax carvings and horns of consecration in art and architecture suggests strong links with Minoan religion, while these symbols may have been adopted for political reasons.
- Sunken ponds and fresco images of altars offer that the Megaron may have served a religious purpose. Additionally, many centers had designated places of worship, usually near the palace complex.
- Given the vast tholos tombs, prominent grave sites, and the abundance of priceless items interred with the deceased, including golden masks, wreaths, jewelry, and ceremonial swords and daggers, it is evident that burial was a significant ritual.
Collapse & Legacy
- The causes of the Mycenaean civilization’s decline happened gradually, starting in c. 1200–1230 BCE. 1100 BCE is hotly contested. The so-called Post-Palatial period, during which the centralized system of palace governance fell, is known to have been marked by the destruction of various sites between 1250 and 1200 BCE.
- Different locales appear to have seen varying levels of destruction, and some locations appear to have completely avoided the mayhem. After that, specific areas were repopulated, though occasionally on a smaller size and with fewer riches than before. Other sites grew bigger and wealthier than ever, which led to most Mycenaean sites being reduced to simple communities by 1100 BCE.
- Natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis, overpopulation, internal social and political unrest, invasion by foreign tribes like the Sea Peoples, regional climate change, or a combination of some or all of these factors have all been proposed by academics as possible explanations for the general collapse of the Mycenaean.
- The enigmatic end of the Mycenaean civilization and the so-called Bronze Age Collapse in the ancient Aegean and wider Mediterranean brought about the “Dark Ages.” Although some sites started to rebound from the 10th century BCE, it would take many more centuries before Greek culture fully regained the heights of the Late Bronze Age.
- From the 8th century BCE onwards, the Mycenaean civilization would so inspire the later Archaic and Classical Greeks that the Bronze Age period became a golden one in which people honored the gods, and soldiers were braver. Life was generally less confusing and more civilized.
- Legendary figures with names like Agamemnon, Menelaus, Achilles, and Odysseus are all Mycenaean Greeks that were immortalized in sculpture, on painted pottery, and in epic literature like Homer’s Iliad, which described the legendary Trojan War, which was likely based on a real fight or series of clashes between the Mycenaeans and Hittites.
Mycenaean Greeks Worksheets
This bundle contains 11 ready-to-use Mycenaean Greeks Worksheets that are perfect for students who want to learn more about the Mycenaean Greeks who, according to Homer, the Mycenaean civilization is dedicated to King Agamemnon who led the Greeks in the Trojan War
Download includes the following worksheets
- Mycenaean Facts
- Fill in the Blanks
- Mycenaean Industries
- Word Search
- Political Hierarchy
- Fact or Bluff
- Mycenaean Working System
- What Am I?
- Mycenaean Gods
- The End
Frequently Asked Questions
Are the Mycenaeans Greek?
The Mycenaean civilization existed on the Greek mainland, primarily in the Peloponnese, Greece’s southern peninsula. The Mycenaeans are considered the first Greeks or the first speakers of the Greek language. From 1650 to 1200 BC, the Mycenaean civilization was at its height.
What was Mycenaean Greece known for?
The Mycenaeans were formidable warriors and great engineers who designed and built spectacular bridges, defensive walls, and beehive-shaped tombs using Cyclopean masonry and intricate drainage and irrigation systems.
Why did the Mycenaeans disappear?
Natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis, overpopulation, internal social and political unrest, invasion by foreign tribes like the Sea Peoples, regional climate change, or a combination of some or all of these factors have all been proposed by academics as possible explanations for the general collapse of the Mycenaean.
When was the Greek Dark Age?
The so-called Post-Palatial period, during which the centralized system of palace governance fell, is known to have been marked by the destruction of various sites between 1250 and 1200 BCE.
What did the Mycenaeans invent?
Despite this haziness, there were numerous shared cultural traits throughout places, making the phrase “Mycenaean culture” beneficial. Among these similar characteristics are Linear B Greek writing and architecture, frescoes, ceramics, jewelry, and weapons.
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